Catalog, a startup based at the Harvard Life Lab, has announced its plans to develop the world’s first DNA data storage technology.
For years, scientists around the world have exerted time and effort to develop the most efficient medium to store massive amounts of information. Every possible medium is currently being studied for storage purposes, including our own DNA. Now, the Boston-based startup Catalog has announced its plans to produce the first DNA data storage technology that can be used commercially.
Catalog claims that it has found a low-cost method of storing a terabyte of data, about the size of 40 Blu-ray discs, in a DNA pellet. In the company’s announcement to the press, Catalog said that it had secured a $9 million USD funding from several venture capital firms to develop the DNA storage technology.
“We are developing next-generation technology to store digital information in DNA molecules. Our vision is to fit the information content of entire data centers into the palm of your hand,” the company wrote in its website.
“We have proven our approach to encoding data in DNA and are in the process of scaling up our platform. The CATALOG technology will make it economically attractive to use DNA as the major medium for long-term archival of data.”
In a report from Quartz, it was revealed that humans collectively produced about 16.1 trillion gigabytes of digital information in 2016 alone. This figure is expected to increase more than tenfold by 2025.
There is no doubt that we are heading towards a future where storage devices won’t be able to accommodate the influx of data that we are producing. There is a data storage crisis that is sending scientists today in a frantic search to increase the storage capacity of current devices.
In an effort to prevent such a crisis from happening, researchers turned to the most efficient data storage that has ever existed: DNA.
Why DNA? Aside from the fact that it is ultracompact, DNA data storage could last for hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place. It won’t degrade, and it won’t become obsolete.
However, until now, storing information in a DNA strand was found to be too slow and expensive. In fact, DNA-synthesis companies like Twist Bioscience charge seven to nine cent per base. That’s roughly equivalent to $100,000 USD for a single-stored minute of HQ stereo sound.
Catalog is working on a process to keep the cost of storing information in a DNA to a more accessible price. Sources close to the company said it includes storing small samples of DNA that represent strings of binary data that can be used to form bigger files and decoupling writing from encoding DNA.